Professor David Vocadlo
Canada Research Chair Tier II
Canada Research Chair in Chemical Glycobiology
Scholar of the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research
E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellow
Department of Chemistry
Simon Fraser University
The Laboratory of Chemical Glycobiology
Glycobiology is the study of the structures and roles of carbohydrates in biology. Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates are not simply energy sources but play many essential roles in cell and organismal biology. Various different types of carbohydrate building blocks are known and these can be linked together in various ways by carbohydrate processing enzymes. The resulting carbohydrate structures are attached to other molecules found in cells including proteins and lipids. The carbohydrate structures present on the resulting glycoconjugates continue to be uncovered as important factors in health and disease.
The laboratory for chemical glycobiology headed by Dr. Vocadlo is engaged in the study of; (i) carbohydrate processing enzymes that act on glycoconjugates, (ii) the development of chemical tools to both perturb the action of these enzymes as well as to monitor glycoconjugates, (iii) and the use of these chemical tools to gain new understanding as to how these enzymes and glycoconjugates mediate biological processes. To realize these aims we study the structures of glycoconjugates using various analytical approaches. We also synthesize substrates to study the specificities of carbohydrate processing enzymes and use the methods of physical organic chemistry and biochemistry to understand how they work to process glycoconjugates. Insights gained through such studies are used to design chemical probes of these enzymes, with a focus on enzyme inhibitors. These probes are validated in vitro, in cells, and in vivo as appropriate. A central objective is to create selective probes of carbohydrate processing enzymes that can be used to evaluate the roles of carbohydrate structures of interest in health and disease.